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Discussion Starter #1
Hello everyone..

Just have a question about beginner horns vs intermediate/pro horns.
I am 32 and committed to learning the saxophone - I'm a bit stuck for what to buy as a first horn. I have no friends that play the sax so I don't have anyone to ask for some genuine advice.

At the moment (will probablu change again!) I'm deciding between a 2 year old yamaha 280 and a 15 year old yamaha 32. Both about the same price - $1000 (£560) and seem to be in a similar condition. I would like this sax to last me a while so I'm not too interested in saxophones with the high f key.

Is there any benefit from starting with a beginner horn or is the appeal simply the fact that they are cheaper when new? Are they more sturdy or easier to play for someone new to the sax?

Or will I go further with an intermediate horn? Are these horns better made or do they require a lot of upkeep? I ask because a guy in a music shop told me it I was better off buying a new instrument as old horns tend to need servicing and fixing all the time... Is this true?

If anyone has any thoughts I would greatly appreciate it... I'm open to any other advice or suggestions regarding my first horn too!

Again, thanks so much in advance!
 

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Either of those Yamahas would be fine, though they both seem overpriced. Whether you should get a better instrument depends on your budget, and how serious you'd like to be about saxophone.

You said you're interested in saxes with a high F key. I'm guessing you're mistaken on this point. All modern saxophones have a high F key, and most have high F#. I'm guessing you meant to say that you wanted high F#?
 

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What the guy told you at the shop is self-serving nonsense. Newer horns, especially in your price range, tend to be made less carefully, with cheaper materials, and will eventually require MORE servicing. A used horn may require servicing NOW, but once that service is done, you should be good to go for many years. Especially with the Yamaha instruments you mentioned, once they are in good shape they will stay that way for a good long time. Just like a car, take the horn in every 6 months or year and have it checked over - there are things that wear and need attention.

If you have a friend or acquaintance that plays saxophone, then please take him or her with you when trying horns. There may be issues that you do not know about that they will notice.

And if you don't, all the more reason to buy one of those Yamahas. They are constructed very well, and unless they have been severely abused they will last your lifetime and your kids' lifetimes too. Just understand that you will likely have to spend a little more money to get the used horns checked out by a reputable technician, and maybe repaired. Look at the pads, and wiggle all the keys. If you see many signs of wear on the pads, or if the keys are very noisy (clanky) then you should probably pass on that horn, or get a steep discount from the seller.

Don't worry about the keywork. These horns go to high F#, that's the standard now, and it's just fine.
 

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First off, have you ever played a musical instrument? If you haven't, and you've just suddenly gotten a whim at age 32 to play sax, you've chosen a relatively difficult instrument to learn. I began, two years ago at age 66, but that was following a lifetime of singing and playing guitar (since age 9).
If you have never touched an instrument of any kind, I don't want to discourage you, but I doubt you're a "born musician," and therefore doubt you'll be very successful with an instrument like the sax. Hopefully I'm wrong about that, but it's just a belief I have......musicians know they're musicians long before they turn 32.
Buy a decent horn from a shop that guarantees it's in playable condition, for $800 or less, or buy from a reputable dealer on our forum. If you do manage to stick with it, you'll have a good enough horn to learn on, and if not, you should be able to sell it, without losing much money.
If you are a clarinetist looking to expand his knowledge of woodwinds, my advice would be totally different, of course. In that case, I'd say buy the best horn you can afford.
 

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First off, have you ever played a musical instrument? If you haven't, and you've just suddenly gotten a whim at age 32 to play sax, you've chosen a relatively difficult instrument to learn.
Which is what I did, 3-4 years ago (age more that 32), on a (new) 280, and I'm having great fun.
For the op. Get either, maybe get a new, fresh 4C mouthpiece and a blue box of reads, and get stuck in. If it works for you, in a few years you'll understand enough to pick the horn you want.

As for learning music from scratch... For grownups, thats probably very individual. I struggle and learn piano as a support. Others will find otherwise
 

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The Yamaha YTS-32 is a better-made and better-sounding horn made in Japan - buy this one if you can at a lower price. I have owned and played a couple of these recently and they were made when the 62 was the top level Yamaha. So, its closer to a pro horn than a student horn.
The 280 is a student horn on the same level as the 23, but the 23 was made in Japan and the 280 was made in either China or Indonesia. Many players will say that a 23 made in Japan is better than a 280.
These days only the Yamaha pro-level horns, the 62 and the custom 82 and 875 are currently still made in Japan.
 

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Depending upon where you live (I'm assuming USA, although you also priced in Euro) you should find at least a half-dozen used alto saxophones in very good playing condition with all accessories needed on Craigslist for between $250 and $500. I'm thinking Yamaha YAS-23, Vito (made in Japan), and some reconditioned older Buescher (made in USA 1960-75).

The saxophone is one of the easiest instruments to learn, not one of the hardest. I have started many people older than you on sax and only one person failed, solely due to disinterest amd lack of devotion to practice. You want a challenge, buy a clarinet.

Play for very short periods at first, until your lips and jaw muscles strengthen. Fifteen minutes two or three times a day for the first week, and stop. Do a little music reading study to pass the time, or just play the keys a bit. You will find that within six months you'll be able to read from fake books like the Hal Leonard series (Ultimate Jazz and Real Jazz) easily. If you have spent any time at all riding in elevators you will already know the melodies, if not the song titles.

Have fun! (I taught a 60-year-old co-worker a two octave scale and he has been playing along with CDs nearly every day now for over 15 years.)
 

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First, welcome to the saxophone and to SOTW !

Second, I strongly believe there is no predefined age (nor age range) to start playing music and have fun !

Third, even if your mind is set and you will commit to the saxophone, did you consider renting one (which may very well be a Yamaha) and taking lessons with a teacher for a while (lets say at least 6 months - 1 year) before buying a sax ?
There would be a few advantages in that:
- it would make you meet at least one person who knows about saxes, so who could help you finding one (don't mention it at the first lesson though... the teacher may become 'interested' and you don't want that bias to evaluate if you can work together),
- you may encounter other sax players through her/him (more help),
- you may have a better idea than right now about what you want and what you should avoid (from a more experienced point of view than just a theoretical one),
- it will give you more time to think about all the choices,
- you will probably need a teacher anyway...

From the two models you suggest, I would also take the 32 over the 280 for the same reasons empressdiver mentioned (and the fact that I like my 32 tenor).
But these reasons are statistically true 'on paper', and nothing beats trying the saxes (and knowing a little bit about their personal history).
However they seem indeed to be on the high side of prices (for example, I have seen 32s sell for less than that, like around 800$).
But you also have to consider that these saxes may need service (changing felts, corks, pads, springs, do some oiling, ...) before being played, or even repairs (dents, ...), and you should be clear on what needs to be done before buying (these things have a cost that go from very reasonable to 'don't buy that horn').
Given the prices asked, I guess no major work has to be done on neither of the horns, but that's still for you to check.
And given the 2 models we're talking about, one initial service would probably last you for good long while (especially with a routine check once every year).

Now about the difference between beginner and intermediate horns, I am absolutely no expert but I think I can safely say the major differences would be in ergonomics (cheaper materials and simpler choices in the mechanics, which means a less 'pretty' horn and that you may hear the mechanical parts moving when playing, especially if not well lubricated), and in the quality of tone they will allow you to produce.
That's not a very big issue in the short run. In the longer run, you may want to consider an intermediary horn (that's what I did with my soprano, for example).

EDIT (forgot my conclusion): it is also worth saying there is a lot of marketing involved in all these denominations, and the lines between student/intermediate and intermediate/pro are quite often blurred... If I were you, I'd start with a rental+teacher, and take my time choosing something you will really like and be able to keep for a long time without any afterthoughts.
 

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Student horns are ideally built extra sturdy, yes, like the old Yamaha 23s. They can really take a beating. That shouldn't matter to you because you're an adult, and the real concern for those instruments is that kids rag them around. I'd grab the best that you can afford used, since if it turns out you're not into it, you won't take as much of a hit reselling it. To answer your question, I agree with the posts saying that the 32 is probably the better buy of the two horns, but that either will serve you fine to get started. Mouthpiece selection is important as a beginner... I'll second the recommendation for a 4c. You'll outgrow it quickly if you work at it and have guidance, but it makes life easier for the beginning student a piece like that.

It's definitely never too late to pick up the horn. I had a student for a while who was a mid-40s ex Marine who was missing several fingers and he found the saxophone very fulfilling. And sax is easy! It's a hell of a lot less work than trumpet or oboe!
 

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Congratulations on your decision to take up the saxophone...It happens to be my favorite instrument...try to find a good teacher, it makes a huge difference, especially in the beginning. Listen, listen, listen...have fun, blow the hell out of it...

As for your horn choices, I'd take the older Yamaha, as others have said they're well build...In fact I find new beginner saxes to be of lesser quality...

Good luck.
 

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You can never go wrong with a student model Yamaha. Best for the money by far. One in top condition plays almost as well and as in tune as a pro model.
 

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congrats on your decision to learn the sax, I too started late in life @57 years old with no musical experience couldn't even read music, my first horn was a Yamaha YAS23, excellent horn and it served me well, my advice is if you can come up with a decent horn find a good tech to check it out, next find yourself a teacher you can relate to, learn some stuff, practice a lot and have fun, music becomes very addictive ,
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Hi everyone..

First of all.. Wow thanks a lot for all the very useful advice and (mostly) supportive comments! I'll try not to be too disillusioned by “the born musician" notion but I will admit that cut a little!

Learning the sax has been a goal of mine for about 10 years since I fell in love with the sound at a local jazz club.... so this is definitely not a whim! I’m currently learning the piano too but before that no, I had not played any instrument fluently - just dabbling a little with the piano when I was younger. I’ve always been very interested in music. Not too sure why I’m defending myself.. I think everyone should be encouraged to pursue their interests despite their age and experience, but everyone is entitled to their opinion so I respect that.

Now I’m from down under so $1000aud is about $750 usd I think... I don’t want to spend too much but obviously want something that I will enjoy and will motivate. I did consider renting but I’m going to give this a good crack for at least a year so I think I’ll buy something to save on rental fees and I think it will encourage me also. If I am “unsuccessful” as predicted I can sell it I suppose.

I checked out the Yamaha 32 yesterday... it looked alright - a fair bit of ?tarnish or wear spots all over and the purple Yamaha logo was mostly worn off but this doesn’t bother me. It’s from a reputable music shop so I trust it’s in playable condition - he said it is and there’s a 1 year warranty so that’s a good sign I guess. I’m thinking it over this weekend and will perhaps head back in next week to buy it - if it’s still there of course!

Thankyou all once again for your input ... I greatly appreciate it!
 

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Get a horn and start playing it. You'll do fine!
 

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Third, even if your mind is set and you will commit to the saxophone, did you consider renting one (which may very well be a Yamaha) and taking lessons with a teacher for a while (lets say at least 6 months - 1 year) before buying a sax ?
Ironic, franniejay, as this is exactly my situation! In two days the six months of rental will have passed and I have to bring the horn back for a check up. I'm seriously considering whether I should buy it, or keep renting it for 3 to 6 months. (The store will sell me the Jupiter JAS769-II alto I'm renting, deducting the rental fee from the price.) An anguishing decision. I too looked at the Yam 280 and the 700 which is cheaper, both available with free shipping on the web.
If you've been listening to saxophone for years, that will help. As a beginner (but longtime musician) I can tell you that the hard part of the sax is making the sound. The rest is not harder than other instruments.

I definitely would recommend renting, especially if they will let you buy it after some period of time (often a year)
 

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I must say I’m impressed by how many members here can foretell the future.
Some of the more recent horns on offer are excellent both in build and tone.
Others have a proven track record.
Yamaha 23 is brought up all the time.
I believe this is more due to thier build quality and general robustness than anything else.
For my mind the Yamaha 32 is a far superior horn on both grounds.
If it were between a 32 and a 62 I would have a far harder time making a decision.
I’d go with what feels and works well for you.
Id personally never pay the difference in price between a 32 and a 62.
And I would add an older 61 or early Yanagisawa to the search also.
For me Yanagisawa and Yamaha’s earlier horns are a step above the modern ones.
 

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If you've been listening to saxophone for years, that will help. As a beginner (but longtime musician) I can tell you that the hard part of the sax is making the sound. The rest is not harder than other instruments.
Different, though; I don't suppose it's so important to be able to voice a note on piano - unless you're Glenn Gould!
But I recon the OP doing a bit of piano will be of great benefit.

I definitely would recommend renting, especially if they will let you buy it after some period of time (often a year)
Just for another perspective. Depending on one's prior experience, but say it takes 3 years, of practicing 1-2 hours a day on average, to get to the stage where one can competently try out a few horns in a shop. That's around a 1000 hours or so. Give or take resale value, reeds, lessons etc. That's still less than $1/hour using a new beginner horn. quite good value...
 

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What one can afford or justify spending a certain amount of cash on is of prime importance.
If funds easily allow then why not get a new Yamaha, Selmer, Yanagisawa etc etc.
Regardless of experience if you can afford it and want it, get it.
On the other hand if funds don’t allow, then buy what you can afford.
Generally if you look around and study the market somewhat, you will notice that older decent model horns are of better value than modern horns even once overhauled etc.
 

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If you buy a good Yamaha you can sell it and recoup most your money. You should have someone with some knowledge check it out if possible.

I have to disagree...I would not rent for a year. That is easily half the price of a horn up in smoke.

A good used instrument at a fair price can always be moved without too much difficulty.

If you dont have the cash Id say rent but financially it never made much sense to me to see people pay rent.

Additionally, if you want some work done on it or it could use a few pads will the shop do it or will you have to beg them to keep it in playing condition?

I guess I just like having my own things.

If that Yamaha is in good playing shape it could serve you for years.
 
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